The tale of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming and central figure in the infamous “Case of the Manacled Mormon” from the 1970s, is the kind of stuff made pulled from a sleazy Hollywood movie. But in this case, the truth is stranger than fiction.
According to the Associated Press, McKinney was accused of abducting a Mormon missionary in England, whom she claims she was in love with, taking him to a “honeymoon cottage” where he was bound to a bed with mink-lined handcuffs and making him her sex slave.
After she and a male accomplice jumped bail in the 1977 court case and returned to the United States, she was arrested in Utah in 1984 for stalking the workplace of the same Mormon man she was accused of making a sex slave in England.
It was a case that played out in British newspapers during 1977 and is now the subject of a new documentary called “Tabloid” from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris, whose film “The Thin Blue Line” saved a man from death row.
While McKinney’s story played out across the pond and was ultimately chronicled by a documentarian rather than a Hollywood dramatization, the Newland, N.C., native had quite the impact on Johnson City. She was even a student at East Tennessee State University.
McKinney first made local headlines in October 1993 after Alan and Susan Rogers were attacked by pit bulls while jogging in Johnson City, and the City Commission voted to have the animals destroyed.
What happened next was another strange aside in the life of a woman whose stories have been the fodder for many publications.
Disguising her blonde hair with a wig, McKinney applied for employment with the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter in order to get to the pit bulls, according to shelter director Debbie Dobbs.
Before donning the wig, McKinney had already appeared at the office of then City Manager John Campbell with her pit bull Booger — whom she later had cloned in 2008 in South Korea using her middle name of Bernann McKinney, a story that’s also addressed in the documentary — in order to demonstrate how nice pit bulls really are, according to court documents. Campbell refused to come out of the office.
McKinney also reportedly threatened then Commissioner Micki Carter, who voted along with two other animal control officials, Rick Gordon and Joe Wilson, to have the attacking pit bulls destroyed.
On Nov. 3, 1993, McKinney was videotaped trying to scale the fence of the shelter and was indicted for burglary of a building in Washington County Sessions Court. The case dragged on for years until it was reset in June 1996 for one year later, during which time she committed no further offenses and the case was dismissed on June 20, 1997.
Since the release of “Tabloid,” which currently sits at 89 percent rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the ever talkative McKinney has been proactive in telling her side of the story, which she believes the film fails to do.
Several YouTube clips feature McKinney more or less hijacking question-and-answer sessions with Morris at screenings of “Tabloid.” During one clip, Morris hands the microphone to McKinney as she begins to tell the audience that the film doesn’t explore how the Mormon church destroyed her life and the life of the man she loved.
“Someday I hope to tell the true story of what the Mormons did to me and the man I loved,” McKinney says in the clip.
Perhaps one day McKinney’s side of the story will clear things up, but until then “Tabloid” is in limited release in theaters and available through On Demand.